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Intellect

University Cameras: Protecting More than Just Your Backpack

This is not a story about "Big Brother." Sure, it's about the security cameras at BYU. But it's not about catching corner cutters in the act. It's really about the BYU University Police team who employ the latest technology to keep the people and campus of BYU safe.

A World Without Cameras

Having an open campus has its pluses and minuses. Students, employees and the public are free and welcome to explore, with some restrictions, many corners of BYU. But it also means that there needs to be thorough security measures in place to make sure everyone can safely enjoy BYU. BYU Police Technology and Communications Center Manager Steve Goodman says protecting and keeping a feeling of safety is important to everyone.  

Goodman oversees the Center's daily operations, including video surveillance, police and medical dispatch and analytics. When crimes do happen on campus, he and his colleagues at University Police use many tools including security cameras footage to apprehend criminals.

“The ability to solve crimes has increased by 50 percent because of the cameras,” Goodman said. 

Earlier this year, footage captured by campus cameras helped police apprehend a man accused of breaking into a Wyview apartment and assaulting a woman. An investigation of groping incidents was aided by the cameras and a trend of backpack thefts was stopped in the Cannon Center.

“We don’t have a fence around this university; and people can come and go,” Goodman said. “That’s the big value of those cameras – the scenarios when people come from off campus and commit some kind of crime.”

Aside from these traumatic incidents, the security cameras have helped respond to many non-criminal incidents, from an after-hours heart attack of a man using an ATM to finding lost Boy Scouts during the Merit Badge Pow Wow.

Tech that Protects

There are about 1,300 cameras scattered across campus both inside and outside of buildings, but these cameras are only one cog in the wheel of BYU security. The Police's Central Control Room has dual-monitor workstations connected to many databases, giant flat-panel displays showing camera footage or incident histories and 24/7 staffing.

With the click of a mouse, dispatchers at University Police can change the orientation of any external camera on campus – an important function when tracking an offender on the run or covering areas with more or less traffic.

Over at LaVell Edwards Stadium, University Police installed technology to help protect the fans and the facilities. There are infrared cameras that use heat sensors to monitor the stadium at night. Cameras that rotate 360 degrees and have a powerful zoom help locate and identify people in security or medical emergencies.

Government requirements for protecting certain types of scientific research labs in universities also includes camera and access control technology. Some of the most ground-breaking scientific discoveries happen at universities and the security systems at University Police, including the cameras, are vital to protecting the information and resources in sensitive areas on campus, said Goodman. 

Minimizing Risk

While protecting people and property is the most important purpose of security cameras at BYU, this careful monitoring helps reinforce the feeling of safety felt on campus. BYU is not immune to the tragedies of campus violence like the shooting at Virginia Tech, and University Police takes thoughtful measures to minimize the chances of such incidents.

“What we’re tasked with is trying to keep the students safe,” Goodman said. “It also helps protect the BYU brand by facilitating a safe place to study.”

Tragic incidents are often impossible to predict while being careful to give everyone privacy. Having powerful safety measures in place helps to minimize the risk of their occurrence, said Goodman.

“It’s not like a privacy thing where we’re trying to invade anything – it gives us information to help solve crimes and recover missing property,” Goodman said. “That’s the value of the security camera system – it’s for safety of our students."

Writer: Nate Depperman

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